Rajagopalaswamy Temple, Mannargudi – Festivals
The temple priests perform the pooja (rituals) every day, including festivals. Like other Vishnu temples of Tamilnadu, the priests belong to the Vaishnavite community, a Brahmin Sub – Caste. The temple rituals are performed four times a day; Kalasanthi at 8:30 a.m., Uchikalam at 10:00 a.m., Sayarakshai at 6:00 p.m. and Ardha Jamam at 8:00 p.m. Each ritual comprises three steps; Alankaram (decoration), neivethanam (food offering) and Deepa aradanai (waving of lamps) for the presiding deity. The worship involves religious instructions in the Vedas (sacred text) read by priests and prostration by worshippers in front of the temple mast. There are weekly, monthly and fortnightly rituals.
The major festivals celebrated in the temple are 18-day Panguni Brahmotsavam. Duration of Kurukshetra war was 18 days. Srimad Bhagwat Gita has 18 chapters in the immortal Mahabharata epic. This is a famous festival in the temple. Lord appears in 32 types of Alankaras representing his 32 Leelas. The Butter Pot festival is celebrated on the 16th day when Lord comes in procession as crawling baby with butter in hand. That is also offered as Nivedhana. After the Alankara, when Lord comes to a mandapam in the place, people throw butter balls. He returns to the temple in horse vaahana in the evening. During this festival, Lord also appears as Sri Andal, on two faced bird named Kanda Peranda Pakshi and as Sri Rama dressed in stark on the Pancha Mukha Anjaneya vahanam. The festival deity is placed in the Punnai tree, the branches of which are hung with garments and ornaments.
Mother Sengamala Thayar blesses the devotees from a separate shrine. Special Tirumanjanam is performed to her on Poosam Star day-Mother’s birth star. On the fourth day of Thai month-January- Lord and Mother appears together on a single throne. Garuda is in female form before Mother’s shrine. Those facing problems in marriage and concerned with the welfare of children, light ghee lamps to Garuda. Though this is a Perumal Temple, Maya, born before Krishna is blessing here as Durga in the Vaasudeva Perumal ghoshta. Special pujas are performed here at Rahu Kalam time. Devotees tie cradles here seeking child boon. Milk is the main Nivedhana for Lord. This is given as Prasad also. As in Madurai Kalazhagar temple, Dosa is the Nivedhana here only in evening pujas.
The chariot festival is the most prominent festival of the temple and the surrounding villages. It is celebrated during the Tamil month of Panguni (April–May); devotees pull a chariot round the streets of Mannargudi. Verses from the Nalayira Divya Prabandham are recited by a group of temple priests and music made with nagaswaram (pipe instrument) and tavil (percussion instrument) is played. Vaikunta Ekadasi during December–January, summer festival in Chithirai – Vaikasi (April to June), Oonjal festival for Rajagopalaswamy in Masi (February-March), Aadi Pooram (July-August), Navarathri during September–October and butter pot breaking ceremony (locally called uri adi) are the other festivals celebrated in the temple.